It was an incredible Saturday for India at the Tokyo Olympics as Mirabai Chanu won a silver in the 49 kg weightlifting category.
Hailing from Manipur, the 26-year-old lifted a total of 202 kg to emerge second behind China’s Hou Zhihui, who won the gold at 210 kg.
Chanu lifted 87 kg in snatch and in the clean and jerk segment, she hoisted 115 kg and helped India open its account.
Chanu could not believe she had won India’s first medal of the Tokyo Olympics.
The Manipuri’s silver made her the second Indian weightlifter, since Karnam Malleswari in 2000, to win a medal at the Olympics.
“It felt like it was a dream. I forgot where I was and the fact that I was standing on the Olympics podium. Everything blurred for a bit. I realised I had won the silver only when they called my name and I felt the medal around my neck!” she said.
Mirabai breezed through the snatch with lifts of 84kg and 87kg on her first two attempts, but failed on her third attempt of 89kg, which would have been a personal best.
Hou wins gold
Meanwhile, China’s Hou Zhihui set a new Olympic record of 94kg. American Jourdan Elizabeth Delacruz lifted 89kg on her final lift, but it was ruled out due to a technical flaw. An appeal by the Delacruz camp was rejected.
In clean and jerk, where Mirabai set the world record of 119kg at the Asian Championships in Tashkent this April, she lifted 110kg on her first attempt and broke into a wide smile, assured of a medal as Delacruz had failed in all her lifts.
The Indian then hoisted 115kg on her second attempt, before failing at 117kg. But it did not matter, for the 26-year-old had made history. Mirabai finished with a total lift of 202kg.
“I am ecstatic! I am so happy to win the silver. I tried really hard for the gold but I am happy with the silver. I failed in 2016 and learnt a lot from that experience and where I have to improve and that’s what got me here,” she says with a 1000-watt smile.
She called home right after the medal ceremony. “The gang in Patiala (her mates at the national camp) called me and were dancing in happiness,” she says.
Her coach Vijay Sharma revealed that they had chosen to scale down her starting weight to reduce the load on her body.
“We were going to start with 86 in snatch and 113 in clean and jerk but decided to start at a slightly lower weight so that we could be safe. We planned to scale up once the competition cleared up,” he said.
Zhihui, world record holder in snatch (96kg) and total (213kg), hoisted 94kg, 116kg and 210kg to set Olympic records in snatch, clean and jerk, and total on her way to the gold. Indonesian Windy Aisah (84, 110, 194) bagged the bronze.
The Mirabai file
- Age: 26
- State: Manipur
- Family: Father (Kriti), Mother (Tombi), two brothers and three sisters
- Awards: Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Padma Shri
- Achievements: Gold: Women's 48kg, World Championships, Anaheim, USA, 2017: women's 48kg, Commonwealth Games 2018, Gold Coast; Silver: Women’s 49kg, Tokyo Olympics, 2020; Women’s 48kg, Commonwealth Games, Glasgow, 2014; Bronze: Women’s 49kg, Asian championships, Tashkent, 2021.
- Mirabai is the first lifter to win a silver at the Olympics and the second to win a medal after Karnam Malleswari’s bronze in Sydney 2000
- She is the second Indian woman to clinch an Olympic silver after P.V. Sindhu
- Her first coach was L. Anita Chanu who trained her at the
- Khuman Lampak training centre in Imphal
-- Compiled by Y.B. Sarangi